Bison ride Luepke, second-half defense to statement victory
All eyes in the FCS college football world were squarely fixed on the battle for North Dakota in the Fargodome on Saturday. The second-ranked UND Fighting Hawks came to town to take on the fourth-ranked Bison with a chance to finally show they were no longer the little brother.
After 60 minutes, it was clear big brother was here to stay, and little brother got sent back home with an atomic wedgie.
The Herd’s 34-13 victory was a statement to the rest of the FCS that NDSU is still very much a title contender, and that February’s loss to Southern Illinois feels like a distant memory.
Hunter Luepke ran roughshod over the Fighting Hawks to a tune of 190 yards and three touchdowns. Luepke’s career day earned him National player of the week honors in the FCS.
Luepke got things started early for the Bison ripping off a 55-yard touchdown run in the game’s first minute to put the Bison ahead in a game they would never trail.
A Zeb Noland interception later in the first quarter gave way to a 74-yard touchdown run by UND’s Otis Weah the very next play. Weah had an excellent game in his own right going for 129 yards while averaging almost 10 yards a carry.
Noland was able to respond from two first-quarter interceptions to hit Christian Watson for a 63-yard score in the final two minutes of the first half to give the Herd a 21-6 lead heading into the second half.
UND pulled within eight after putting together a six-play 55-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter, but the Fighting Hawks wouldn’t score another point for the remainder of the game. NDSU put on such a defensive clinic in the second half that the Fighting Hawks never crossed midfield after their early third-quarter touchdown.
The Bison won by three scores in-game where they only completed eight passes. Noland got the start for the Herd after a week of speculation, but Freshman quarterback Cam Miller saw game action for the second straight week.
UND converted just one-third down on the game, while the Bison were able to convert over half their third-down attempts.
The win brought the Bison back up to number two in the country behind undefeated James Madison. The Bison now head down to Vermillion to take on Coyotes at the University of South Dakota. USD currently sits at 1-3, good enough for eighth in the Missouri Valley. The Bison now only have three regular-season games remaining in this season’s conference-only schedule.